month (April 2003), as we celebrate the 167th anniversary of Texas'
independence, it's probably a good time to tweak the collection conscience
of East Texas.
The last surviving veteran of the Battle
of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, lies in an almost forgotten
cemetery in deep East Texas,
his tombstone chipped and broken. Few people are aware of the grave.
It's an ignoble resting place for a proud old soldier, John G.
Pickering, who died in 1917 at the age of 99 following a career
that also included service in the Mexican War, a legacy as a country
physician, and a reputation for caring for the poor and unfortunate.
For his service to Texas, he received a pittance of $12.50 a month.
A native Mississippian, Pickering came to Texas as a boy printer.
He recalled that Andrew Jackson once placed his hand upon his head
and told him, "You're a fine boy."
Landing in Texas in 1836, he joined Texas' revolutionary forces at
in W.A. Patton's company in Colonel Sidney Sherman's Regiment. "That
was in April, and our men met Sam
Houston at Grace's Crossing on the Brazos River after a four-day
march and joined the retreat to the San Jacinto River. We tore down
a house owned by Mr. (Lorenzo de) Zavala and made a raft to cross
the river," Pickering told a newspaper reporter in 1916.
Pickering fought ferociously at San
Jacinto as Houston's men whipped Mexican General Santa Anna's
troops in 18 minutes. He stood with Deaf
Foot Wallace and other Texas heroes when Santa Anna was brought
before Houston as he lay wounded on a blanket under an oak tree.
That night, Pickering decided to kill Santa Anna to avenge the fallen
Texans at the Alamo
But Houston learned of his plan and put the young soldier under guard.
"Now that time has passed, I see that Sam
Houston saved me from a thing I would have always regretted,"
With Texas' independence assured, Pickering became an apprentice to
Jones, who had treated Houston's wounds at San Jacinto. Jones
taught him the fundamentals of frontier medicine -- a profession he
would practice for more than sixty years. He was known for his kindness
and his frequent refusal to take money from the poor.
During his nineties, Pickering was often called upon by lawyers as
a witness in land cases with roots in the l830s and l840s. Few questioned
his judgment or memory.
But in one case, when a Hardin
County judge questioned Pickering's presence at San
Jacinto, an attorney produced a volume of Brown's History of Texas,
which carried the name "J. Pickering" as a combatant.
Pickering outlived two wives, Martha Remwater and Elizabeth Williams.
As a physician he lived in several communities in Jasper,
Hardin and Tyler
counties. In his nineties, he moved to Angelina
County to live with his son-in-law, Johnnie Williams, on a small
farm near Zavalla -- a town that ironically bears the name of the
man whose house helped him cross the San Jacinto River in 1836.
Pickering lived a modest life at Zavalla, rarely complaining, except
to remark that he would like a new suit for his 100th birthday.
In February of 1917, he left home in his buggy, pulled by his faithful
old mare Dolly, to visit his friend, Hannibal Mott. Caught in a rain
shower, he became sick and died at Mott's house on February 4
eleven months short of his 100th birthday.
The last hero of the Battle
of San Jacinto was buried in an old suit.
Things Historical April
13-19, 2003 column
syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
Battle of San
Jacinto - Related Articles
The Battle of San Jacinto by Jeffery Robenalt
Battle of San Jacinto April 21, 1836 by Murray Montgomery
of San Jacinto by Archie P. McDonald ("All Things Historical")
Letters from Travis' Saddlebags Spark Outrage by Mike Cox
Jacinto Day by Archie P. McDonald ("All Things Historical"
News of the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, and the execution
of Texians captured at Goliad three weeks later, produced the terrible
Runaway Scrape, a mad flight of refugees who scrambled eastward
to escape a similar fate at the hand of General Antonio Lopez de
Santa Annaís armies. In the midst of these troubles, one man, Sam
Houston, rode west...
Talk by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
"In modern times, battles begin with precision air strikes.
In the 19th century, battles began with stirring speeches. Sometime
in the early 1900s, the Beeville Picayune published the talk Captain
Mosley Baker supposedly gave to the men of his company at San Jacinto
on April 21, 1836..."
Top Ten Facts About The Construction of The San Jacinto Monument
Jacinto Monument by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
"Most people think the towering star-topped limestone monument,
built during the Texas Centennial in 1936, is the only San Jacinto
monument. Actually, itís only the biggest."
(Alphonso) Steele - Last Texas survivor of the battle of San
Jacinto, and a State Park dedicated to him.
Last Hero by Bob Bowman ("All Things Historical" )
The last surviving veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto on April
21, 1836, lies in an almost forgotten cemetery in deep East Texas
Frenchman at San Jacinto by Bob Bowman
Charles Cronea, a Jean Lafitte pirate who fought at the Battle of
Treaty of Velasco by Archie P. McDonald ("All Things Historical"
General Sam Houston, and later Interim President David G. Burnett,
chose negotiation instead of revenge for the massacres at the Alamo
Sisters by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
The most famous pieces of artillery in Texas history
at San Jacinto by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
Enoch K. Smith may have been the 17th Smith who took part in the
Battle of San Jacinto.
Mysterious Yellow Rose of Texas by Linda Kirkpatrick
Dalliance to Remember by Clay Coppedge
Yellow Rose of Texas by Barbara Duvall Wesolek